21 Questions With … John Pardon ’11


[and check out our previous 21Q with SALUTATORIAN VERONICA SHI ’11]

pictureName: John Pardon
Age: 21
Major: Mathematics
Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC
Eating Club/Residential College/Affiliation: Butler College

What was your initial reaction when you found out?
Well, after getting the email asking me to Dean Fowler’s office, it took some time to actually walk over there, so by the time I arrived, I had pretty much figured out that I’d won something.  It was still pretty surprising when she told me I was valedictorian.

Who’s your favorite Princetonian, living or dead, real or fictional?
Probably John Nash *50.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in Princeton?
On campus: certainly the Great Chefs of Chicago dinner in the dining halls during freshman year.  Off campus: Mediterra.  I went there at the expense of an electronic trading firm, GETCO.  I’ve gotten lots of subsequent invitations to go to similar such dinners, but I always find it awkward to attend because I don’t actually think I want to go work at a place like that, so I haven’t gone to any more of them.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day?
There are the usual tasks, homework, etc.  But otherwise, I run, practice cello, and read math papers.

What is your greatest guilty pleasure?
The Sci-Fi channel, though recently I’ve only had the chance to watch it when I’m at home on break.

Could you briefly describe your thesis?
It’s in topology, specifically knot theory.  I wrote about a new link “concordance” invariant.

Do you know all the words to Old Nassau?
No (and I feel like I’m the only one too!  When do they teach everyone these things???)

What is your biggest fear?
Going blind.

What do you hate most about Princeton?
So many interesting classes, so little room in my schedule …

What’s your drink?
Orange Juice

What makes you laugh?
Anything; often people say something completely serious that ends up making me think about something else which happens to be hilarious.  I went to Princeton in Beijing one summer, and the teachers were always afraid of me because I was always laughing; they thought they’d done something wrong and that I was laughing at them.

What makes you cry?
Moving music, maybe in movies, or just at a ceremony.

Where do you do your best thinking?
Walking around outside, especially around lots of trees.

When’s bedtime?
I’d like to say 10 PM, but realistically, it’s more like 11 PM.

What’s your personal anthem?
When I listen to music, I usually switch between pieces a lot, so I don’t think any single piece deserves that title.  I guess perhaps the answer is just whatever I’m playing in orchestra (I play cello).

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“well, …” “I mean …”

Who is your mortal enemy?
I mean, that’s not the type of information it’s safe to publish …

What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve done in the past year?
Crawling from the street onto on a roof in Barcelona to take pictures of the huge port, and subsequently getting yelled at by a police officer.

In 25 years, you will be …
46 yrs old (and you thought that as a math major I wouldn’t be able to do addition!)

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned at Princeton?
That’s just too broad, especially for a place like Princeton.  Even after a semester here, I probably couldn’t answer that.

What makes someone a Princetonian?
Intellectual curiosity, eagerness to engage a subject from an academic point of view, desire to ask questions, just in general a knowledgeable outlook on every sort of issue, even if it’s far away from your field.